The past 17 months, there have been two Wisconsin's.
Split down the middle, close to 50-50, the sides clearly have been drawn up. Either you were for Walker or you were for Barrett. Perhaps more accurately, you were either for Walker or you were against him. Semantics.
For several weeks in Wisconsin's bitter cold in the early part of Gov. Walker's term in office, thousands of protesters descended on Madison wearing Badgers red chanting, beating drums, and demanding to be heard.
Meanwhile, silently, neighbors and friends; families and co-workers who held the opposite view simply watched from afar, all the while wondering if our differences could ever be mended. And while that ultimate goal of relative unity may still be outside of our grasp, can we use yesterday's election as a first step toward working together for once?
I, like many here at OnMilwaukee.com sometimes wear my politics on my sleeve. To a certain extent we all do. One thing that polls and yesterday's election have shown the nation is that Wisconsinites are passionate about what we believe in. And while it is easy for Republicans to "spike the football" so to speak, that will only serve as a motivation to Democrats to resist any call for a truce, once and for all.
Right now, we are desperate for a truce.
Of course there will always be divides and differences. But the discourse has gotten so ugly and disruptive our elected officials literally have not been able to do the jobs in Madison that we have hired them to do. It doesn't matter who started this. It is time to end it.
How? By focusing on what can bring us together.
By now you may be wondering what this has to do with sports. In fact, everything.
Take those same angry Capitol protesters Southwest on Dayton Street a few blocks on a Saturday in the fall and you would never know that they were sitting next to someone at Camp Randall Stadium that they otherwise would be screaming at rather than with.
Sports have the unique ability to unite us when seemingly there is nothing else. Sports cuts across socioeconomic barriers, religious differences, and political opposition. In short, sports have the ability to heal.
Of course I am not naïve enough to assume that in the wake of a disheartening defeat that Democrats are anxious to be anywhere near Republicans, Gov. Walker's call for a picnic on the lawn notwithstanding. But the fact remains we cannot continue on as divided as we have been for almost a year and a half if we ever hope to become the Wisconsin we can be.
While many took exception with Mayor Barrett's campaign, one thing that is hard to argue with came in the first debate between the two leaders. The political divide has put friend against friend; family member against family member. Irrespective of who did what, it is true.
We are a deeply divided people.
But we all love cheering for the Packers. We can all commiserate over the Brewers injuries and lack of success in 2012, just as we can recall their fantastic, thrilling run of 2011. And while there promises to be still some wrangling over the ultimate fate of the Bucks and the Bradley Center's replacement, we have all been frustrated by their overall lack of success over the past quarter-century.
In times of strife, sometimes the only things that can heal us are what unite us. Sports can be that conduit to civility. This is not a new concept.
On a brilliant Tuesday morning almost 11 years ago in New York City, two planes slammed into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,000 souls. Another plane was flown into the Pentagon; while still another was bravely taken over by Americans not wanting another of our landmarks and symbols destroyed.
For the next several days we as an American society were lost. How could this unspeakable terrorist act have happened? How could someone across the world hate us so much?
But from the worst act upon us as a people arose the best that our country had to offer. We put aside partisan politics. We were no longer Republicans or Democrats, we were Americans. What united us was so much stronger than what divided us. We were more giving; we were more conciliatory. We emerged a better society for having survived that terrible, awful day.
After a brief period of several days to snap out of a collective funk that we will all someday tell our grandchildren about, one of the first signs that life did indeed go on was the resumption of our sports schedules.
Of course we did not forget what happened. How could we? But sports helped us heal as a nation. When President Bush threw out the first pitch of the World Series at Yankee Stadium just weeks after the attack, out in an open baseball diamond surrounded by the heroes of the rescue, just as those that perpetrated this heinous act were hunkered down hiding like cowards in a cave, there was not a partisan person in our country. We were united as one.
In the same way this is my hope for Wisconsin. I doubt I am alone in having lost friends over differences of opinion as to how much power the public employee unions should have within our state. I have never been of the opinion that just because you may have a sharp difference of opinion over a particular political issue or two that should preclude you from a friendly relationship with that person. Debate is healthy. Screaming at each other is not.
I also have come to know that not everyone shares my opinion of this.
While it may be a Pollyanna view of the world to hope that we can all finally come together now that this fight is over, this is still my fondest wish for the homeland that I love with all my heart. That while we may disagree, maybe we can agree to put down the angry fist signs on the left and hold the celebrations down on the right and just take in a ballgame together.
Surely both sides will be amped up for November, where the rhetoric and hot air will be blowing from both sides of the political spectrum. But remember that when the campaign is in full stride, so will football season. And while you might be debating your brother over the family dinner table, just as the Olympics pauses wars, perhaps a Badgers game can temporarily cause a cease-fire in your own house.
Looking for ways to find common ground does not have to be that hard. After all, the likelihood that Republicans and Democrats alike have the same Aaron Rodgers jersey in their closets is pretty high.
Obviously the issues that existed yesterday are certainly still there. We as a people still have a lot of work to do in making the tone of our debates more civil. And sports may not be the ultimate solution to solving or still deep political divide.
But it's a pretty good place to start.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.